Sita Sings to my heart

Sita Sings the Blues is a musical, animated interpretation of the Ramayana interspersed with autobiographical scenes from the creator’s own life. Nina Paley, the film’s creator, blends bright, colourful and cartoon-ish animations styles with Anne Hershaw’s old-time music to create a piece of work that’s almost overwhelming to the senses – it’s totally immersive. Paley explores the story of Sita in the Ramayana and draws parallels to her own life, specifically, the breakdown of her marriage. This emotional roller coaster had me totally captured.

The film selects stories from the Ramayana to tell the story of Sita through three narrators, depicted as shadow puppets, who discuss their versions and understandings of the Ramayana, really highlighting its status as folk tale and fable rather than a strict body of work.

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The back-and-forth narrative style reminded me so strongly of listening to my ex-boyfriend’s Italian grandparents trying to tell a story about things from decades past – building on each other, correcting each other, sharing the same event or interaction from their different perspectives. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that this was totally organic! Paley recounts how each of her three narrators met each other for the first time that day, and their conversation was totally unscripted.

In the film, Sita is a powerful goddess, daughter of the Earth, and Paley tells the story of this strong woman being governed by the desires and decisions of other men. Paley explains on the film’s website that this felt reflective of her own decision to follow her husband to try save their marriage. For me as a feminist, my reading of this part of the story line was of a literal goddess whose faith and love for her husband was both empowering and constraining.

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Sita’s commitment to following the way of Rama, her husband, and her faith in him rescuing her keeps her from lashing out at her kidnapper


In fact, this film perked my feminist antenna a few times. When Sita is captured and held prisoner, her captor doesn’t touch her. When Rama rescues her, this is of the utmost importance to him, that her purity and virtue be unspoiled. In many Western cultures, these same values ring true – a woman’s worth is perceived to be decided by her virginity and modesty. From my understanding, this has strong roots in Christianity. This led me to wonder what the roots are in Indian and Hindu cultures.

Virginal purity


Moreover, what led to these ideas of women’s value and the emphasis on sexual modesty being so universal, so wide-spread? A question that large is most definitely for another time and another body of research, but a small investigation shows that Hindu culture places a strong emphasis on women’s purity and virginity before marriage, and the idea of ‘purdah’, which “reveals itself in civil behaviour, modest dressing and appropriate behaviour towards men” (Rashid & Michaud 2000, p 56).

feminist lens

This question is something that occurs to me and bothers me frequently – am I guilty of moral imperialism? Of cultural appropriation at times? Of judging cultures based on my cultural learnings? Well, firstly, it’s important to admit that it’d be basically impossible not to factor in my beliefs and values when I view something. I can’t switch it off – I’m not a robot, and autoethnography doesn’t require me to be. I’d like to believe my consciousness of these biases and impacts of such counts for something. But to respond to my own questions and worries, I find some comfort in Paley’s description of “the wondrous complexities of racial relations”, with which she dismisses those who view everything as inherently racist.

Rama’s perception of Sita’s virtue and faithfulness would be the downfall of both of them, with Rama casting out his loving wife and unborn children, despite all her attempts to prove herself.

dog the boys

No matter how hard she tried, he kept treating her like dirt. Sound familiar, ladies?


Paley saw the failure of her own marriage in Sita, and the universality of failed relationships in Sita’s struggle. I was reminded of my own past relationships, and felt such strong reactions to both Paley’s and Sita’s heartbreak in the film.

love you

Paley uses ancient stories, old music, and modern animation to tell a timeless and universal story of love and heartbreak- “really show(s) how the story of heartbreak in the Ramayana transcends time and culture.” Despite my being unfamiliar with the Ramayana or Hinduism in any meaningful sense, I was transported by this film. I loved the bright colours and large choreographed scenes, reminiscent of Bollywood, and I felt a strong emotional connection to the two main women. Sita Sings is such an excellent example of communication and sharing across cultures.

Watch Sita Sings the Blues here.



Rashid, S & Michaud, S 2000, Female Adolescents and Their Sexuality: Notions of Honour, Shame, Purity and Pollution during the Floods, Disasters, vol 29, no. 1, pp 54-70

Heading back into the man’s game

Understanding my assumptions throughout It’s A Man’s Game:

Using our own culture and experiences to understand another is something that we all do on a regular basis; autoethnography puts this into an academic setting where we can use personal aspects such as perspective and opinion to contribute towards research to develop a deeper understanding. I attempted to tackle this unnecessarily-difficult-to-say word and the meaning behind it by recording my personal experience of Korean culture – my thoughts during the documentary State of Play. State of Play is a documentary that looks into the eSports profession in South Korea. It is centered not so much around the actual gaming, but more so around the hysteria that exists within the gaming industry: the fans, the hours of training, the huge stadiums, the money, the sacrifices the gamers make and, overall, the intense and fierce nature of the eSports scene. For me, it was difficult to concentrate on much else than the gender roles that were screaming at me. Literally. Women were only portrayed as screaming, adoring fans whilst the men were the talented, moneymaking gamers. Watching and recording how I felt was the easy part. Understanding how I came to my assumptions is the in-depth process, the autoethnographic process.

The most common thing I did throughout the viewing, was compare my culture to that of South Korea. For example, “but what isn’t obvious throughout the documentary is whether girls even try to compete at a professional level, whether any of them are interested, whether they just accept the gender norms, or if there are girls out there who are frustrated by the fact that men dominate the gaming industry and they are expected to just scream and squeal for the boys until their throats are sore, at which point they just fall to their knees and present the gamers with gifts, even when they’ve lost.” Words such as ‘them’ and ‘they’ provide obvious disconnections between myself and South Korean women, even though we share so much in common. It is my lack of experience with the gaming culture that creates my disconnection. But naturally, as a human being, I grasp on to any sense of familiarity by recalling memories of being a celebrity fangirl myself as a young teenager, as the South Korean girls are portrayed. This was how I made sense of what I was viewing, this is how my personal experiences shape my understanding. Ellis et al. describes this as they way we “systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (2011).

It is interesting to consider how my assumptions throughout State of Play were sometimes very different to that of my classmates (see Digital Asia blog). This is where the individuality of autoethnography is so obvious: since every person has different experiences, different knowledge and different perceptions, the way that we perceive things can vary immeasurably.
For me, one of my biggest passions in life is gender equality, and so I tend to pull this out in every possible opportunity. Specifically in State of Play, gender equality was nowhere in sight, and so my personal understanding of South Korea shifted. Upon reflection and research, feminism is actually surging within this country. Leading the pack is Megalian.com, a website which uses technology to promote gender equality and to humorously bash the misogyny that exists within South Korea. “To see the misogyny that is today taken as acceptable social behaviour and spat at South Korean women every day: to turn it around so men and women alike can witness it in its honest, raw form – discrimination.” Having this new knowledge answers some of the questions I considered upon my initial viewing of the documentary: I genuinely did not know if anyone was interested in women empowerment or if traditional Korean culture was just happily accepted. With this new knowledge, my next viewing of State of Play would probably provoke all new assumptions, highlighting the nature of autoethnography and how each experience can hugely impact each perception.

Autoethnography allows us to critically understand the assumptions we make and what they say about our cultural experiences and understanding. It makes us consider why we feel a certain way about something to, in turn, lead to a deeper understanding and more useful and reliable research.


State of Gender Equality in South Korea

Today I am analyzing my own auto-ethnographic account of the South Korean documentary on professional gaming ‘State of Play‘.

Autoethnography as defined by Ellis et al, 2011 refers to the act of observing a cultural experience and discussing how your own personal cultural experiences affect the way in which you experience this.

In my initial autoethnographic account of ‘State of Play’, I was left dumbfounded at some of the situations exhibited in the documentary. This included the huge amount of fame given to professional gamers, these gamers then giving the majority of their ridiculously high earnings to their parents and the lack of equality exhibited in gender roles through South Korean society. After the initial shock of these differences wore off, I conducted research into South Korean traditions and values and found many answers to my questions of cultural difference.

Despite only 1% of South Koreans actively identifying as Confucianist today, many of their social values and traditions are based upon Confucianist ideologies. The family is integral in Korean life and the father, being the head of the family is required to provide food, clothing and shelter and must approve of any marriages of members of the family. Many families trace back their ancestry through male ancestors for over 500 years and Confucius’s teachings denote how individuals should behave and outlines obligations of people depending on their relationship.(Commisceo Global, 2016)

Further children in Korean society are raised to believe they can never repay their parents for bringing them up and are forever in their debt. As the act of bringing them into the world and giving them life is seen as the ultimate self-sacrifice.(Commisceo Global, 2016)

Now how does all this relate?

The cultural values exhibited in Korean society and their values bring light to a lot of the things Lee Jae Dong did in the documentary ‘State of Play’ which confused me in my initial viewing.

For example, I was thoroughly perplexed and mildly pissed off when Lee Jae Dong’s exclaimed that he gave all of his winnings to his father. Growing up in capitalist Australia my initial reaction was to accuse the father of stealing and question his use of emotional manipulation tactics. However, upon research and reflection, as Korean society places the family’s welfare above that of the individual’s, and Korean children are raised in debt of their parents by Confucian tradition, this act made sense. Despite the fact my upbringing still makes me view this as ridiculously unfair.

Another aspect of confusion for me was the very structured, rather sexist ritual of female fans presenting Lee Jae Dong with gifts after he would play in professional gaming tournaments. Although it appears gift giving has very strict etiquette rules to follow in South Korea. As the female fans admire and respect Lee Jae Dong, and want him to perform well, these gifts signify support and love from the fans. Some of the etiquette rules to follow include handing over the gift with both hands, wrapping it nicely (a gift wrapped untidily is a sign of disrespect), and giving 4 of something in a gift is considered unlucky where giving 7 of something is lucky. (Commisceo Global, 2016)

The fact that everyone has a specific place in society with rules and obligations they must follow accordingly means the disparity between genders is very large. South Korea ranked 111th out of 136 in the gender equality index. As the documentary highlighted through its significant lack of female professional gamers and immense number of fangirls which I originally found quite alarming, the country has a long way to go for gender equality. (Kim, J Lee J-W, Shin, K 2016)

Just because these social exchanges make sense, doesn’t make them agreeable or right for the me and this seems to be the case for others as there are many feminist groups fighting to raise women’s place in South Korean society.  There is a 55% female participation rate in the South Korean labor force compared to the male rate of 77%. South Korea’s importance of raising a good family places immense pressure on mothers, who are primarily responsible for rearing children. Korean workplaces have been found to provide inflexible environments for working mothers and a lack of affordable, convenient and quality child care. (Kim, J Lee J-W, Shin, K 2016)

One of the more extreme branches of these movements is ‘Megalia‘ who have spoken out against, misogyny in South Korea. Their website is a space which has been dubbed by Reddit user ‘SexyMcSexington’ (I know I’m sorry) as the ‘female Korean 4chan‘ which I find is an interesting perspective.  The group have been surrounded in controversy as it attempted to ‘mirror’ the misogynistic comments male users would write about females.

However much of the backlash I found was very similar to the backlash against feminism in Western cultures and Megalian’s tactics could be easily compared to ‘Feminazis’ online. Where men would have similar arguments stating that the feminists are worse than misogynists and accuse them of attempting them of suppressing men’s sexual freedom. (Singh, E 2016)

The group have been responsible for shutting down ‘hidden cams’ on the website Ticketmonster, which would film females in situations where they were unaware of being filmed. They lobbied for the removal of misogynistic banners from Hanshin University, donated over 6 million KRW to Aeranwon an NGO which helps single mothers, and most notably has stopped the sale of high concentrate hydrochloric acid which has been used as weapons in hate crimes against women by men. This was all done by lobbying and protesting by the group and are all significant measures which enable better safety and security of South Korean women.

Their logo I absolutely love, it is satiric in nature and alludes to the novel by Gerd Braten Berg, ‘Egalia’s Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes’, where the genders are reversed. So males are at constant risk of sexual assault and it’s considered their fault and women are given the upper hand in society due to their ability to give birth. It also alludes to the constant objectification of women through use of hand gesture used to signify small male genetalia. (Singh, E 2016)


I love that there are feminists fighting for their voices and right to equality in South Korea as there was a very defined divide between genders throughout the documentary. The only females shown were the gamer’s mothers and sisters and then the fan girls whose only purpose seemed to be to worship and offer unyielding support for the players. Which I found very unsettling considering its 2016.

I apologize for going off on a feminist tangent however I feel I didn’t delve enough into the issue in my original autoethnographic account. Through analysis of my original post, I have gained greater understanding of the Korean Culture and the state of society (pun intended) exhibited in the documentary ‘State of Play’ through research and reflection.


Tell me something I don’t know


The final part in this three-part experiment is researching Hatoful Boyfriend. I’ll tell you some basics. It’s a dating sim/visual novel based on an alternate reality where birds are sentient. The protagonist is the only human at St Pigeonational’s trying to navigate her way through a bumbling best friend, pompous transfer student, narcoleptic maths teacher and extremely shy freshman among a whole host of other crazy birds.

First problem when it came to researching this further: what’s the difference between a visual novel and a dating sim?

View original post 1,200 more words

That time of the year…

So now comes the time where I take a long hard look at everything I’ve researched, and try to narrow it all down into a singular topic. This part is hard. I feel as though the information I have collected can equally contribute to what I would like to express within my research essay. The hardest part will be coming up with a question to really narrow my focus. Hoppes (2014) believes that “the research question may not be evident to the writer and is one of the last puzzle pieces to fall into place.” (pp.66) Which has certainly become the case for myself. Judging from what Hoppes has said I need to look closely at all the information I have collected, and brainstorm a number of questions that could be relevant to the topic.

Looking back at my previous posts I can most definitely see a connection. Each aspect of Sailor Moon I have looked at from a Western perspective in comparison to the Eastern perspective. Whether that be the changes within in content, the exportation of both the anime and manga, and the globally accepted female characteristics.

I feel that having watched the anime as a child provides me with an advantage when looking at it from a Western perspective. However I also feel that my nostalgia may affect my ability to look at the show from a critical level. The one thing that may play to my advantage is that I have watched the original dubbed version as a child, and I am now watching the new re-booted Japanese version (with subtitles, because I am unfortunately not that talented) as an adult. This experience is allowing me to garner a whole new out-look of the series as a whole. I eventually plan on reading the manga, but unfortunately that won’t be for a while, because – you know – assessments, and stuff.

So to finish off this series of blog posts I leave you with an article explaining pretty much everything you need to know about Sailor Moon, and a comparison of both the original and new and improved anime. Later Sailor Scouts!


Hoppes, S 2014, “Autoethnography: Inquiry Into Identity”, New Directions For Higher Education, no. 166, pp.63-71

A controversial topic…

So this week I will be looking at the controversy surrounding Sailor Moon. The video above gives a short look at the differences between the Japanese and American (Western) versions of Sailor Moon. In case the video isn’t working, or you just cannot be bothered watching it, i’ll give you a short run down. Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus are dating! *GASP* shock horror!

Or at least 90’s America thought it was.



However the world is changing. And fortunately for Sailor Moon fans everywhere (well outside of Japan anyway, because let’s face it, they are pretty ahead of the times when it comes to this sort of thing) we are finally going to be able to watch this romance play out before our very eyes.

When the original series was dubbed for Western Audiences Neptune and Uranus were shown as cousins. And as you can see in the YouTube video, their scenes together became pretty awkward, pretty quickly. As a consumer of Sailor Moon I feel robbed. I grew up with the dubbed versions of these shows as I have only just recently discovered the beauty of the Japanese versions.

Feminist site BitchMedia praise the series for helping “girls around the world come to terms with their sexualities” (2014) with the writer herself exclaiming that she grew up wishing for a romance similar to that of Haruka and Michiru (Uranus and Neptune). I myself grew up with a pretty open understanding of different sexualities, and although I am straight, I have a number of close friends who are not. A number of those friends found it hard to come out to friends and family for a number of reasons, and I can’t help but think that if they had children’s programs, such as the Japanese version of Sailor Moon, would’ve they accepted their sexuality earlier in their lives?

However, all is not lost. According to CAAM, Viz Media, who have just acquired the Western rights for both the original and re-boot, are releasing 200 original episodes un-cut. They are also promising to keep the new episodes the same as the Japanese version, when they eventually dub them over.

Here is a video promoting their progression.

Bridges, R 2014, The Feminism of Sailor Moon, BitchMedia, http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-feminism-of-sailor-moon

Fighting for love, justice and… feminism?

One of the aspects of Sailor Moon that drew me towards the show was its portrayal of strong female characters. There were an abundance of super hero cartoons on television at the same time as Sailor Moon; however the heroes were almost exclusively male. To watch school girls who were so much like me, kick some dark kingdom butt – it was exhilarating. My eyes were opened to a whole world of possibilities , but to think that watching Sailor Moon as a child could have some sort of link to feminism as an adult seems incredible.

Kahn (2014) believes that the link between Sailor Moon and feminism lies within the characters that Takeuchi has created. “Usagi can be emotional, flighty, and boy-crazy,” characteristics most females can relate to. The Sailor Scouts are all so different that even if you don’t fully relate to Sailor Moon (Usagi) there are 8 more planets that could suit your fancy.

“They are avatars of death, as with Sailor Saturn, whose power is to bring about the apocalypse. They are elegant, thrill-seeking race car drivers like Sailor Uranus, in love with world-class violinists like Sailor Neptune, and they are ace students like Sailor Mercury.” (Kahn, 2014)

The video that I’ve posted by Ravenclawgirl29 gives a pretty decent outlook on the feminism values within Sailor Moon. Although the speaker gets a little lost on her own tangents occasionally she provides some great points. In particular the point raised on how all shows that are marketed as being ‘gender neutral’ are predominately male characters, with a few females thrown in every once and a while. Sailor Moon was one of the only shows in the 90’s marketed as ‘gender neutral’ with a mostly female cast.

So if you have watched the video, what do you think? Do you agree with the points raised by Ravenclawgirl29?

Kahn, J 2014, Nostalgia As A Weapon: The Sailor Moon Renaissance Is A Feminist Mission Behind The Lines Of Pop Culture, Comics Alliance, http://comicsalliance.com/sailor-moon-feminism-renaissance-nostalgia-women-role-models/

Feminism and porn

This week I’d like to strengthen my autoethnographic research through a closer examination of how my own perspective and lived experiences frame my understanding of the hentai culture I’m studying. As Dyson (2007: 39) says, the autoethnographic “author and researcher necessarily reveals his or her hand, or voice, up front”. For me this means being open about the ways in which my personal beliefs and attitudes underscore the relationship that has begun to develop between myself and my chosen field of study. This kind of transparency is crucial for the author to then begin asking questions about how their own position acts as a lens that filters, refracts and interprets the cultural phenomenon they are studying (Ellis & Bochner 2000: 739).

As autoethnographic research is generally framed around recollections of important event’s in the researchers life (Philaretou & Allen 2006), I think it’s critical that I discuss my growing awareness and deepening concern for feminist issues as it is the gender representations in hentai that has been most aggravating to me. A few years ago I did not identify as a feminist, but came into contact with the idea during my studies. Since then I’ve begun to notice more and more the way in which daily occurrences that are normalized and institutionalized in this culture perpetuate the patriarchy and reinforce gender inequalities.

Feminist views of pornography fall into three broad categories: anti-porn feminism, liberal feminism that advocates freedom of expression and choice, and pro-sex feminism (McElroy 2002). My personal views on pornography lie somewhere between anti-porn and the liberal feminist position. I think that many women consume pornography for their own enjoyment, and they have the right to not only view it, but participate in it, however the porn industry is explicitly geared toward fulfilling male sexual desire and representations of women in pornography in its current form are harmful, degrading and rarely empowering. In other words, the porn industry doesn’t exist for both genders, rather it is more about showing “women as submissive sexual objects presented for the sole purpose of providing pleasure to men” (Reinhard 2010)

(Photo courtesy of Cambridge University Press)

In my limited experience of hentai so far I’ve seen almost exclusively sexist and damaging representations of women (and girls), in many cases blatantly misogynist… here I am referring to the productions that depict not sex, but rape. While these images are disturbing, they are not as confronting or surprising, as they should be. I know very little about gender and sexuality in Japan (and I will endeavour to research this further in my next post), however as a female that’s grown up with Western mass media, I am all too familiar with the objectification and domination of the female body. I remember hearing as a young girl that “Barbie” had a negative influence on body image because she would not physically be able to support her figure in real life, and I can certainly say this would be the case for most of the female characters in hentai with their tiny limbs and grossly oversized breasts.

One of the few non explicit images I could find in Google


Dyson, M. 2007, ‘My Story in a Profession of Stories: Auto Ethnography – an Empowering Methodology for Educators’, Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 32(1).

McElroy, W. 2004, ‘A feminist defense of pornography’, Free Inquiry Magazine, 17(14), viewed online at http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/mcelroy_17_4.html

Philaretou, A. G and Allen, K. R. 2006, ‘Researching Sensitive Topics through Autoethnographic Means’, Journal of Men’s Studies, 14(1)

Reinhard, C. D. 2010, ‘The rise of hentai in America, part 2’, It’s playing, just with research, viewed online at http://playingwithresearch.com/2012/08/12/the-rise-of-hentai-in-america-part-2/